By Chris Moore:
RATING: 3 / 5 stars
Didn’t I already write a Weezer review this year? And last year? And the year before that?
Yes, on all three counts.
So, allow me to begin with the disclaimer that Death to False Metal, though it receives only a half star lower than the rating I granted Hurley, is not as cohesive an effort in comparison. The individual songs shine in places and come up short in others. It is, after all, a collection of songs that, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut on their previous studio albums.
What is fascinating about this release — and what grants credibility to Rivers Cuomo’s stance that this should be considered Weezer’s ninth studio album proper — is that the songs haven’t simply been culled from studio tapes, digitized, and hastily thrown together. As the official press release reads, “The album was created using the basic tracks of 10 previously unreleased recordings — nine never-before-heard songs plus one cover — to assemble a brand new and truly modern-sounding record.”
This is what is most striking about the album on first listen: that it sounds like an album. Considering that the tracks hail from periods as diverse as Pinkerton, Maladroit, Make Believe, and The Red Album, this could very easily have sounded like your typical “Greatest Misses” compilation. Some, like Bob Dylan, have pulled off this brand of release, largely due to the fact that their vaults are populated by excellent cuts. Most, however, release these compilations for the enjoyment of only the most fanatic segments of their audience.
On Death to False Metal, Cuomo and company have introduced a third option: remake the songs as one might restore a car, balancing a faithfulness to the original design with an attention to more contemporary sensibilities.
As could be expected, even with a band with as characteristic a sound and feel as Weezer, there is still a sense that these tracks have been compiled. The transition from the grunge of “Everyone” to the glittery pop/rock of “I’m a Robot” is particularly noticeable. What’s more, both of these tracks fall firmly under the “I-see-why-they-were-scratched” category. Still, there is an energy to them that is infectious, and if you enjoy this band’s style, you will find yourself turning up the sound. Although these two songs have the potential to become grating, they also clock in at well under three minutes each.
Elsewhere, the simplicity is appealing, as it is on “Trampoline” and “I Don’t Want Your Loving.” And “Turning Up the Radio” is yet one more reminder that, simple or not, Weezer are the kings of the epic chorus.
The decision to work from the basic tracks up is what sets this release apart and what makes it a solid album. If you want to split hairs about the quality of individual songs, even in comparison to other Weezer tunes, then you could lose yourself in the criticism and find, in the end, that you’d missed the point of the album.
The point, as supported by the opener, is to turn up the volume and enjoy a set of songs that have been filtered through the Weezer of 2010, which — contrary to what critics (myself included) were concluding as recently as a year ago — is actually saying a great deal.
The packaging itself is impressive as it so very rarely is with this band. Much of the obvious has been stated and restated as concerns the cover, but little has been noted about the presence of lyrics, pictures, drawings, and other elements of intelligent design within the booklet.
The fact that two staples were required for assembly is, in itself, pleasantly surprising.
So, if you’re tired of what passes for rock on mainstream radio, pick up a copy of Death to False Metal. It won’t change your life and it probably won’t make your end-of-year top ten list, but it will be an album you’ll crank up and enjoy over and over again. Even the Toni Braxton cover that concludes the disc is surprisingly consistent with the tenor of the previous tracks. And, if you manage to block out all memories of nineties radio and half-drunken karaoke nights at your local bar, then you might even think it’s a decent song.
After a questionable 2009, Weezer has returned with two of the most enjoyable and respectable releases of 2010. Death to False Metal may be an “odds and ends” album, to borrow the language of early band chatter, but it holds its own against the very strong Hurley.